Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Monday, November 8, 2010

A few Mod rarities

I thought for a long time that it was impossible to find good stuff at a reasonable price at record conventions. I'm slowly changing my mind. The thing is, I love the feeling of finding a rare 45 at a garage sale and paying 1$ for it. But how often does that really happen? And if you are lucky enough to find that obscure garage LP you've never heard of before, it's usually in poor condition.

Record conventions do the sorting out for you so you are usually left with la crème de la crème. The adage "somebody's trash is somebody else's treasure" sometimes also applies. You might put your hands on a valuable early ska Studio 1, Prince Buster or Coxsone single just because the majority of the collectors around you are only interested on Japanese Kiss releases.

I did find a few rare oddities at the last two record conventions I attended. The Pop Montreal record fair was held during the festival of the same name. Aside from a few more "common" albums like The Bar-Kays - Soul Finger, Valerie Simpson's Exposed, Al Green's Gets Next to You, I was very happy to put my hands on decent copies of two of the more influential sixties Quebec garage band Les Sinners and Les Lutins. I sometimes see them priced at up to 150$ each in record shops. So you can imagine my surprise when I only paid 20$ for both of them. It goes to show you that there are deals to be made at record conventions.

On the 7" front, 5$ was well worth the price I paid for this 4 track  2004 release from French Mod band  Les Dragueurs . The attractive record sleeve and white vinyl record was enough to convince me to buy it.

A few weeks later the Record and CD Convention of Montreal was held once more. I always wondered if it was worth paying a few extra dollars to walk in an hour before everybody else. My friend Michel, a veteran record collector and music aficionado, suggested I should do so. The seasoned crate digger was already head first in a box when I arrived.

I joined him as he was going through rows of early Quebec artists 45s hoping to come across some very desirable obscure sixties garage groups. He was flanked by another knowledgeable collector/blogger, Félix B. Desfossés aka DJ Pâté who was looking for the same thing.

As I was patiently waiting for my turn, I decided to go through the rows of English speaking artists. That's when I stumbled upon a single by The Beau-Marks. They were one of the rare groups from Montreal that had an international hit in the early sixties with Clap your hands. The song was recorded in a basement studio only a few blocks away from my place. The single, not particularly rare since it was a big hit, was 5$. There was one thing about the record that I hadn't noticed before Félix graciously pointed it out after he made sure I was going to buy it. All the members of the group had signed it! Not bad for a few bucks!

I should say that Félix is THE reference on Quebec garage rock on the web. You should check out his blog Vente de Garage. It's extremely well researched and even if it's entirely in French, there are tons of clips to listen too.

Another 45rpm that would certainly qualify as a rarity is the mint copy of Mod Socks by the Cleveland, Ohio group The Grasshoppers. The bass player and vocalist for the band, Benjamin Orr, later became one of the key members of the successful group The Cars.

But the major score for the day was not one, but two copies of the only LP released by the Canadian group The British Modbeats. Caught in the British Invasion wave that was sweaping the nation at the time , the band was actually from the small town of St. Catharines, Ontario. The Modbeats released an album in 1966 on Red Leaf Records. I don't think you can get any more obscure than that!

Why 2 copies, you might ask? One of the records is a bit rough with a few scatches but the cover is quite nice and it was signed by all of the band members on June 28th 1967. Plus it came with a couple of newpaper clippings about the band. The other album simply plays great.

The album cover is a thing of beauty. Even if they look more psychedelic, with their bell-bottoms and paisley shirts, than proper mods, I did see an early photo of them wearing suits. The music itself is actually quite good. The downside is that they only recorded covers. The good news is that more then 40 years after they seperated, they are apparently back together! And this time around, they're performing original material. I really hope I get a chance to see them live one day.

You can get more information about The Modbeats through their website.

They even have a Facebook fan page!!/pages/The-Modbeats/130175844559

If you have scored an unsual Mod record lately, let us know in the comment section.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A little Northern Soul for the Mod on the run: Part II

When I first started buying music, you couldn't do it by simply clicking on your computer mouse. You actually had to walk into a record shop. The first LP I ever bought with my allowance was a Kiss album. (How things have changed!)  I was in 4th grade and I bought it in a small shopping mall, two blocks from my house. Every few weeks, my best friend Francis and I would pool our money together and buy a new album.

But it was in high school that I bought my first portable music player. After a few months of delivering newspapers, seven days a week, at 5:30 in the morning, I got enough cash to buy myself a brand new Sony Walkman. Yes, total freedom! Long live the cassette tape!

If you think about it, it was quite revolutionary. You could listen to your choice of music, anywhere you wanted. I remember when I first put the headphones on. It felt like I had the band right in front of me. Aside from the headphones, that you would have to replace every few months, the sound quality was remarkable.

I was independent. I could listen to MY music and nobody could tell me to turn it down. Since "nostalgia" is my middle name, I recently tracked down my faithful silver Walkman WM-4 on eBay and bought it again. I just learnt that Sony has finally discontinued the Walkman after 30 years in production. I didn't even know that they still sold them! You can read an online article about it here:

The mighty cassette was equally a very cool thing. You could make copies of your favorite albums and pass it along to your friends. That is how I discovered The Who, The Specials and Bob Marley. My friend Greg had made me copies of those albums.

Since I reignited my love for vinyl, I've been looking around for funky portable turntables. (See part 1) The latest addition to the collection is the Sound Burger. Made by Audio-Technica, it came out around the same time as the Walkman but it was, compared to the portable cassette player, a commercial flop. Who would want to deal with cumbersome LPs and a needle skipping when you could simply walk around with a bunch of cassettes?

This record player might not be an audiophile's first choice because of its average sound quality but it makes up in the practical department. I have since brought it with me at a few record conventions, flea markets and record shops. It has practically paid for itself by preventing me from buying a bunch of crappy records. On the flip side, it has allowed me to discover unknown artists that I would have normally glanced over without a second thought. Plus, it hits 10 on the cool scale. Just the name itself is enough to evoke a reaction or conjure up a smile.

Expect to pay a few hundred dollars for a mint example in its original box. Mine came without headphones but it did have the seldom-missing white screw at the back. The screw prevents the clamp from opening when it’s not in use. If you put your hands on one with the screw, make sure you take it off before you use it or you risk breaking the turntable. I have heard of it happening. The record player also comes in vibrant colors like yellow or red, reminiscent of the 80's.

With vinyl records making a comeback full force, Crosley came out with their modern version. It has the advantage of having a USB connection so you are able to transfer your precious vinyl collection to your computer, a wireless radio connection and integrated stereo speakers. Currently retailed at 149$, it's quite a steal.

For more info, check out the Crosley website here:

The Crosley Revolution

I bought a pair of inexpensive speakers for the Sound Burger that plugs in the headphone jack and it has proven to be very popular at parties or on my rooftop terrace. All you need is a good selection of northern soul, garage, ska and a stable surface.

The Sound Burger remains the perfect companion for the Mod on the run...